Once on this Island

Yesterday I went to see Once in this Island at the Circle in the square Theatre. Once on this Island is a broadway revival,   that brings culture, life and passion to the New York stage. It explores the importance of storytelling, telling the audience, and a little girl, who was scared, the story of an island where the rich and poor are divided, and how the Gods remove the divide through the power of Love. I loved this show and thrilled that I got to see it before I left NYC.

The most impressive thing about the show was the community created among the audience and the actors. The show never really began. The house lights didn’t come down until the audience was fully immersed in the show, and the characters developed over time. The audience was thrown into the island, and not just because they were surrounded by actors, props and the set. The Gods began to take form with simple accessories, such as blue paint, or scrap chiffon. Once the storytelling fully began, they were transformed into full costumes, based off the accessories. Clint Ramos did a fantastic job in throwing the audience into the story.

Hailey Kilgore, Ti Moune, brought a childlike wonder to the show, with eyes wide at everything. And Lord knows she can belt. And of course Emerson Davis, who played the little girl, had beautiful voice and was very talented. The whole cast was extremely talented, and lured the audience into the action.

The cast were so evidently passionate and I wanted to go up and dance with them. You could tell the audience knew this. They were so supportive, and there for the performance. I have noticed that on Broadway, the audiences tend to be more audible, than I’m used to. However with this show, you could see it was genuine love, and support, when people applauded, and the instantaneous standing ovation. Even I found myself cheering the whole performance and itching to stand up at the end. The run time was 90 minutes, it felt far longer, and yet I could have watched it for four times as long, and still want to have seen more.

I was reminded of something someone once told me. “Passion of theatre always shines through and makes any performance transcendent. It cannot be rewarded by a single part, but by a lifetime of a dramatist” This show was dripping with passion, culture, life and colour. I would highly recommend- and I would be very surprised if it doesn’t become a front runner for the Tonys next year.

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Torch Song Trilogy

Today, I got to see the Torch Song Trilogy Revival at the 2nd Theatre, by Harvey Fierstein. Torch Song is a play made up of three parts; International Stud; Fugue in a Nursery; and Widows and Children First! The story centers on Arnold Beckoff, played by Micheal Urie, a Jewish homosexual, drag queen and Torch Singer who lives in New York City in the late 1970s, and early 1980s.

One of the most wonderful things about this play, I think, is that it shows the development of Arnold Beckoff, subtly and yet painstakingly obvious. It shows very real characters, and gives you a protagonist that is deeply flawed in many ways, yet ultimately likeable, and inherently real. The first two acts were good, however the third act, Widows and Children first! Is where the play truly shines.

The staging was fantastic, with neon lights constantly reminding the audience that this was a queer play set in the 70s and 80s. The whole cast gave brilliant performances. I was very excited to see Michael Urie perform, but I must say, at times his acting was a little over-the-top, extra comical, and sitcom-like. The character, and Urie himself, were always making jokes, whether it was written, or a not so sly look to the audience. You can say that, that is just how the character is, which I think it is. But I want to go deeper. In Urie’s acting I was reminded of a quote from my favourite Scotsman, Alan Cumming. “I had to be a grown-up when I should have been a little boy, and now that I’m a grown-up my little-boyness has exploded out of me. I’ve lived my life backwards.” I think this quote applies to a lot of the LGBTQ+ Community, I think it applies here, because it truly embodies the character of Arnold. Urie didn’t over-act any other factor of the part, not the sexuality, or the inner emotion. Just the facade he placed over himself. In the third act, when you see the facade begin to crack, during a fight with his mother, Mercedes Ruehl,  about his sexuality and his decision to foster a child, it is truly, truly moving.

I heard one audience member call this play dated. And I can see their argument, although, I think it is only dated, because it is set in Manhattan, and we are seeing it here. New Yorkers, and myself, I think, can very easily forget that the world isn’t as accepting, as it is in this liberal bubble. Everywhere across the world, families are unaccepting of peoples sexuality, calling it a delusion or a disease. Hell, even our Vice President, Pence, thinks homosexuality is a disease and needs to be cured. It was only in 2016, that same-sex adoption was made legal in the United States- and even then, it is still loudly spoken out against.

I have a lot of love for this play, if you can’t tell. I think it’s an important piece to be shown, and it was very moving. It had an air of melancholy, however still left you with a tiny bit of hope to reach out for at the end.

Waitress- Brooks Atkinson Theatre

Today I got to see Waitress, the new musical by Sara Bareilles, starring Betsy Wolfe, and Jason Mraz. Waitress follows the story of Jenna, a waitress at a pie diner, and the ‘mess’ she’s making of her life.

I loved the overall direction of this piece. It was a really good balance, between realism and abstract art. Using the ensemble, and choreography to portray the true heart of the piece. I was surprised by the music, Sara Bareilles did a brilliant job of writing a musical, especially for a pop singer. The story was heartwarming, and had everyone craving pie in the interval, not helped by the fact that they pump the smell of baking pies into the theatre. It was dripping with Southern American charm, whilst driving a very universal story.

Betsy Wolfe, Jenna, was fantastic, she portrayed an endearing, but determined young woman, who knew what she wanted. This was of course, helped by her powerful voice. I was surprised by Jason Mraz, he was far better than I expected, he portrayed a chaotic, clumsy, but ultimately sweet Dr. Pomatter. The surrounding ensemble, were brilliant. An honourable mention has to go, however, for Christopher Fitzgerald, who played Ogie, and absolutely stole the show in his number ‘Never Getting Rid Of Me’

I don’t have much to say about it otherwise. It was, a perfect musical. However I wouldn’t call it revolutionary, or substantial. It’s a perfect rainy-day sort of musical.

I finally wanted to note, that every time I go to the theatre, I am reminded of the impact of it, and why it’s so important. At the end of the show, over 1000 people were standing and clapping in unison. The sense of community was undeniable. They held a live auction for Broadway Cares, auctioning a page of sheet music, signed by Jason Mraz. They raised $3200 in around five minutes. They raised that much, because of theatre, a love of music and the arts. They, like the other broadway houses, are using their platform for good and It’s beautiful to see.

Dear Evan Hansen – Music Box Theatre.

Tonight I got to see Dear Evan Hansen at the Music Box Theatre in NYC. Dear Evan Hansen is a new musical by Pasek and Paul starring Ben Platt. Pasek and Paul are notable for their music in La La Land. The musical follows the story of Evan Hansen, a socially anxious high school senior; a letter that was never supposed to be read; and a lie that should never have been told.I had been itching to see this since I saw Ben Platt perform ‘Waving through a Window’ on Seth Meyers. With Dear Evan Hansen winning six Tony awards and having been heralded as the Hamilton of the 2016/17 season, I was expecting big things. I was not disappointed.

DEH is a deeply emotional show. This is definitely aided by Ben Platt’s brilliant performance, but also by the directing and staging of everything, particularly the musical numbers. ‘You will be found’ and ‘Waving through a Window’, both gave me chills. The most wonderful thing about the staging was that it was so simplistic. The musical felt so contemporary, which is so hard to do. Of course, another factor that made it feel so modern was the use of social media as a part of the narrative and the set. The set was so sparse and bare; with rotating platforms that was just a small part of the set. The technology used in creating the set and atmosphere was fantastic. The design of social media, videos, emails and letters constantly bombarding stage, made you feel so overwhelmed, but so alone at the same time.The cast were fantastic. Ben Platt was brilliant, however not the only star of the show though, Colton Ryan, Connor Murphy, and Laura Dreyfuss, Zoe Murphy, were both fantastic and definitely contributed towards those six Tony Awards. The music by Pasek and Paul was fantastic. I can’t imagine this story being told in any other form. The music was vital in showing how the characters felt, without being too ‘musical theatre-y’, again another factor in why the show felt so contemporary. Despite the story being very melancholic and emotional, it was surprisingly funny. They managed to make it funny effortlessly, without it being too corny.

I think one of the reasons the story resonates with so many people, is because it’s so relatable. It’s so easy to feel alone in a time where everything is instant, and validation is usually given in the form of shares and likes. People get to curate their lives. It’s so hard to see what people actually feel. To use the cliché – you can be surrounded by people, and still feel alone. Almost everyone has felt like Evan Hansen at least once in their life (minus the dubious moral choices). It’s a story that’s been told before, but now it’s been brought to 2017, with the music and the technical aspects, it’s so much easier to see in everyday life.

I absolutely loved the show, despite my fears. I’m so glad I got a chance to see it with the original cast. It was a melancholic, funny, technical wonder, with a hint of hope strung throughout it.  I have so much else to say about this, but luckily that will be in an essay, so you don’t have to worry. I’m sorry that this is still so long. Hopefully, this show will transfer to London next year!

Groundhog Day- Musical

Today I saw Groundhog Day at the August Wilson Theatre in NYC. This is the third show I've seen on Broadway – And the first one I've thoroughly enjoyed. Groundhog Day is a musical adaptation of the film by Tim Minchin. I've never seen the film, so this was my first encounter of the story. I didn't know what I expected, but it wasn't what I saw.

The film translated surprisingly well to the stage, with the lighting providing a clear visualisation of the days repeating themselves. Usually I would hate a show that tried to be a film, however in this production, they did that, but very effectively, when dealing with scenes that were hard to adapt to the stage – For example, the police chase scene. The show was repetitive, but not boring by any stretch. Tim Minchin brought the wackiness and surreality of the film to the stage. Notably with a wonderfully, darkly comedic song about suicide, called 'Hope'.

The cast were fantastic, you couldn't help but fall a little in love with weatherman Phil Conners (Andy Karl). And everyone found comfort in Barrett Doss's Rita Hanson. The duo worked brilliantly together, and their voices complimented each other beautifully. The characters were full of life. Every character had their own story. They were never just there for the sake of it.

It was wacky, fun, truthful- with a message without being condescending, and it was funny.

Unfortunately Groundhog Day is closing tomorrow, however it is rumored to be returning to London, and I would highly recommend checking it out if you can.

 

( I do have a backlog of reviews to get up- mainly from the Fringe and I will get them up when I have a chance! But from now until December, I will be based in New York, so will be reviewing shows over here)

Exile- Ed Fringe

On Monday morning I went to see Exile at the Space Triplex (At 9.30am I might add). Exile is a feminist piece of theatre, that depicts six women thought history and fiction exiled to a non-descript island.

It was a really interesting piece of Theatre, where time was non-existant, but yet omnipresent throughout the whole piece. Creating a bubble of time, which almost felt suffocating. The use of physical Theatre was very effective in exploring the gentle and loving relationships between the women, whilst at the same time exposing the brutality of the world outside of the exile. This was all aided by the acting which was just fantastic. The cast embodied the array of characters which all complimented each other, and worked very well as a company.

Overall definitely worth getting up for at 930am!

Commons- Ed Fringe

Yesterday afternoon, I saw Commons, from the St Andrews Theatre company, directed by Louis Catliff, written by Elliot Douglas.

Commons explores the relationship between an MP and his rent boy, the power dynamic between them, and the story of their unconventional love (?).

I really enjoyed the script and the characters. They were well thought out and very defined, ( If not a tad obvious in some places). This was aided by the distinct acting from the two leads. The two leads had an interesting chemistry between them, on occasion very awkward, and at other times like a newly wed couple- All fitting to the script.
The order of the scenes was very insightful, by going backwards it gave all of character background, without slowing down, or becoming clunky. The use of the chorus provided a much needed comedic relief, and a break from a script that could become very stuffy.

Overall a solid Fringe show with an interesting story.

Alex Morris:Apologies

This afternoon, I went to see Apologies, a sketch comedy show, part of the Edinburgh Free Fringe. Alex Morris is an emerging comedian from Kings College London, previous work includes his YouTube series, Teachurs.

In this sketch show, he portrays several different characters who are distinct, defined and notable in their own right. The costumes were a nice touch, however unnecessary as the acting was good enough to suffice.

I was pleasantly surprised by it, and kept laughing throughout the whole show and I would have loved to see more!

Trainspotting live – In Yer Face Theatre Company

I had the absolute pleasure to see Trainspotting tonight at the Pleasance EICC. I had tried to see this production last year but it completely sold out. I must say I felt like a very bad Scot, having not seen any form of trainspotting before, but I can definitely say I was blown away by the performance this evening.

Trainspotting is a completely immersive theatre event. I wouldn’t call it a show at all, It really is an experience. When I spoke to Greg Esplin, Tommy, He described it like a hit of drugs. It starts off with an amazing high, lots of laughs and fun, and then very suddenly and rapidly you fall into withdrawal and all becomes very painful.

One thing that I find often with Immersive Theatre, is that the actors can often fall short as the audience are so distracted by everything else. However, in this production, the acting is phenomenal. There were comedic moments, heart-wrenching moments, and moments where I wanted to look away.  Esplin, was fantastic, loveable yet tragic. Paired with Gavin Ross, Mark, they both just brought the show to life- with the rest of the fantastic cast. And of course their 8th cast member – The audience.

I would highly recommend- It really is a must see for the fringe. But book soon, because it will sell out!

 

Trainspotting is running at The Tunnel at EICC Pleasance until the 28th at 18:00, 19:45, and at 21:30 on Fridays and Saturdays

Half A Sixpence.

I went to see Half a Sixpence tonight at the Noel Coward Theatre, starring Charlie Stemp. Half a sixpence is a classic rag to riches story concerning humble Kent man, Arthur Kipps, and the love triangle he manages to get stuck in the middle of.

As the show started, the overture began with banjos. This made me quite dubious, a musical overture beginning with banjos? However, the music transitioned into a very classical musical genre. Which, of course, is very catchy, although not particularly unique.  However a few songs did stick out to me, due to the emotional performances from the cast.

Stemp’s Kipps, is naïve, a tad daft, but extremely lovable. His childish allure, shines throughout the performance and brought so much energy to the show. I just wanted to hug him throughout the whole performance. The whole cast complimented each other, and the chemistry between all the apprentices was very playful, and their scenes were always enjoyable to watch. I really did enjoy the show; it was extremely feel good. It had me smiling throughout the whole show.

Although I do want to mention, also because I know it was a controversy during the casting process – It was extremely white. I do think Stemp was a perfect fit for Kipps, however the whole cast of 28 is seemingly white (I don’t want to assume anyone’s nationality). I don’t believe that they didn’t see any POC that were suitable for the show. And if an excuse is that there weren’t that many POC in 1904- They also didn’t break into song and dance in 1904…

Politics aside, I did enjoy the show immensely, and would recommend for a fun light hearted night. However, I would campaign for more diversity in the West End, as it is so ridiculously important, across so many shows. This one was just glaringly obvious